Nostalgia for Nanortalik

A memorable sojourn in 1971


Concrete block construction Nanortalik 1971

A strange image to get nostalgic about – two of our team busy feeding a cement mixer which in turn is producing the mix for a supply of concrete-teethed blocks.  These blocks were to protect a new water supply from icebergs as the pipeline crossed the seabed of a small inlet.

We’d arrived in Nanortalik en-route for our climbing destination around Tasermiut.  Unfortunately, our equipment was delayed and we were going nowhere until it arrived.  And so it was we enjoyed an enforced sojourn in Nanortalik, stranded with no equipment, little money and nowhere to stay.  We were rescued through the kind attentions of the Danish officials and for a while we became part of the local community.  We had a house which we repaired and work that kept us well above the breadline – we feasted once a day in the newly built canteen used by the seasonal Danish workers.

The picture tells part of the story.  Our ‘little helpers’ were everywhere and seemed fascinated with some of us. The combination of Bob’s bald head and copious red beard must have been an unusual sight, for it attracted the most attention.  Other than the Danish workers, there can’t have been many visitors to Nanortalik around that time.  Exploration of the Tasermiut region had been slow to take off and 1971 was something of a watershed year. As well as our Scottish expedition, groups from France and from Ireland were to pass through, albeit very much more speedily than us.  Previous expeditions had been rare with single parties confined to each of 1961, ’62 and ’68.

We were grateful to others who helped make our enforced stay a memorable experience. Leif Larson, a doctor at the local hospital, and Lise, in administration at the hospital, are fondly remembered for their kind hospitality.  Leif hosted a farewell dinner for us of unforgettable proportions and also ferried some of us to off-island locations in his speedboat for the occasional mini-break!  I remember that we sent him a thank-you gift of a book on falconry and also that later, he visited us in St. Andrews.

Not least, we were gsculptor-richardrateful to the Greenlanders who let us share with them the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Hans Egede, about which we’ll write soon.  Meanwhile, here are more of the little helpers as they watch sculptor Richard carve a concrete block into an owl, whilst others relax and read in the sun.  We had time on our hands.